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Serious staff shortages in Donegal Mental Health Services

Pearse Doherty, TD.

Pearse Doherty, TD.

DEPUTY Pearse Doherty today expressed alarm on learning of the staff shortages in the Donegal Mental Health Services.

Speaking after it emerged that a letter has been sent to GPs in the county advising them of serious staffing shortages in the Donegal Mental Health Service, the Sinn Féin TD for Donegal South West said: “ I was alarmed to hear from local GPs of the letter circulated from the Clinical Director of the Donegal Mental Health Service detailing the impact that current staffing shortages will have on the service.

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“The letter states that in 2014 and for the foreseeable future that the service will be operating with a “serious shortfall” in Consultant Psychiatrist and Non Consultant Hospital Doctor posts within the service and will cause postponing of outpatient clinics at short notice, increased waiting times for new patients and delays in the assessment of emergency referrals.

“Furthermore the Clinical Director anticipates that service provision in Intellectual Disability, Old Age Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service will be reduced in an effort to cope with a “service wide problem”. The Letter further states the worst case scenario could be the temporary shut down of an entire sector due to Consultant/ NCHD absences.

“It is clear that there are serious questions to answer in regards to Mental Health provision across the state and in Donegal. Of the total 875 positions allocated to strengthen mental health services across the state in 2012 and 2013, in January 2014 the recruitment process had only been completed for 514 of these posts. While the figures are not broken down by county, 71 of the 361 positions to be filled nationally are in the HSE west region.

“The question that needs to be asked is why is the service being allowed to dwindle? In a county such as Donegal, which unfortunately has seen almost every community affected by suicide and other mental health issues these services are vital and should be strengthened, instead the opposite is the case.

“ I intend to raise this matter as a priority with local HSE management and in the Dáil. In the meantime I have submitted a number of Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health in order to get a clear picture of the extent of this issue.”

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